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HHS Grant Funds Maternal Family History Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A new program funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services will develop a new electronic family history tool that women's physicians could use to inform decisions about maternal and child health by blending genetic and family information.

The program will be led by the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG) and will include the March of Dimes, the Genetic Alliance, The Newton Wellesley Hospital of Partners Healthcare, and it is funded with a $1.2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration's Genetic Services Branch.

In the program, patients will fill out standardized family history questionnaires using a computerized tablet that will be analyzed electronically, the March of Dimes said today.

The patients will then be given advice or certain things to watch for based on their family and medical histories, and they could be referred to genetic counselors.

"We hope doctors will use this new family health history tool to identify women at risk for having preterm labor or an infant with a birth defect," March of Dimes SVP and Medical Director Alan Fleischman said in a statement.

The electronic health tool also could encourage health care providers to update family history data through the patient's lifespan, with the long-term aim of developing an electronic health record.

The e-health tool will be compatible with the US Surgeon General's family history tool, the "My Family Health Portrait" Web-enabled program.

"Taking a patient's family health history is an important way for doctors and other health care providers to evaluate the risk of common conditions such as heart disease or premature birth," NCHPEG Executive Director Joseph McInerney said. "With this grant, we can improve how prenatal providers gather and use family health history to improve the health of their patients."

Newton Wellesley Hospital is a teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine.

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